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Separatist Leader Says He Is Taking Power in Ukraine's Luhansk Region


FILE - Igor Plotnitsky speaks to reporters after talks about a cease-fire in Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, Sept. 5, 2014. Plotnitsky, the Kremlin-installed leader of the Russian-occupied part of Ukraine's Luhansk Oblast, resigned Nov. 24, 2017, "due to health reasons," the Luhansk separatists' Security Minister Leonid Pasechnik said.

A senior separatist official of the Ukrainian region of Luhansk says he is taking over power from regional chief Igor Plotnitsky, who said earlier in the week that a coup attempt was trying to force him out of office.

Security Minister Leonid Pasechnik said Friday that he was taking over after Plotnitsky resigned for health reasons. There was no verification of the claim from Plotnitsky.

Both men are part of a pro-Russian rebel group that has ruled Luhansk for several years but has recently been troubled by infighting.

"Today, Igor Venediktovich Plotnitsky resigned for health reasons. Multiple war wounds, the effects of blast injuries, took their toll," Pasechnik said in a video posted on pro-rebel news sites.

Earlier this week, armed men blocked the central streets of the Luhansk region's main city, also called Luhansk. Plotnitsky said it was a coup attempt by supporters of Igor Kornet, the rebel region's interior minister, whom Plotnitsky had recently fired.

Plotnitsky later said he had the situation under control.

Luhansk and the neighboring Donetsk region rebelled against rule from Ukraine's government, based in Kyiv, in 2014 and declared themselves independent.

Russian officials say they are monitoring the situation, but deny they have any influence over the rebels.